A U.S. military base in Manbij, Syria. Photo: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump surprised allies, adversaries, and even some advisers last Thursday when he said the U.S. would be pulling out of Syria “very soon.” The clearest indications of what happens next came in statements today from Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

The bottom line: Sanders confirmed that the Trump administration is taking the idea of pulling out of Syria seriously — but said the anti-ISIS fight isn't finished yet, and there are no immediate plans to withdraw. That shows "the president’s top military advisers ... have succeeded — at least for now — in persuading an impatient commander in chief not to order a quick withdrawal," per the NY Times.

Trump's rationale for pulling out: The U.S. is in Syria to defeat ISIS, and ISIS is very nearly defeated. Sanders echoed those comments, but said the U.S. will remain until the job is done and “consult with our allies and friends regarding future plans."

Consider this: While Trump's administration was discussing potential U.S. withdrawal, the leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey were holding a press conference saying they plan to rebuild Syria.

Withdrawing from Syria altogether would arguably be Trump's most significant foreign policy step yet, and a break from how he has handled other military conflicts as president.

  • The Afghanistan example: After calling for a withdrawal for years, Trump actually announced a troop increase last year. One concern he cited: setting a timetable for withdrawal would embolden the enemy.
  • Those against withdrawal from Syria argue that the same is true there — pulling out could create a vacuum, and lead either to the re-emergence of ISIS or the emergence of another insurgent force.
  • Meanwhile U.S. adversaries, including Iran, Russia, and the Syrian regime, aren't going anywhere. A U.S. retreat could help them grow their influence in Syria and the wider region.

What's next: Coats said that after Trump's comments there was an “all hands-on deck” conversation about how to proceed in Syria. He said an announcement will be made “relatively soon" on next steps.

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Jerry Falwell Jr. will take an “indefinite leave of absence” from his roles as president and chancellor of Liberty University after posting a photo of himself with unzipped pants and an arm around a woman on social media, according to the school.

The state of play: The picture, which has since been deleted, drew backlash and charges of hypocrisy from conservative political figures because the university's honor code strictly prohibits students from having "sexual relations outside of a biblically-ordained marriage," and recommends they dress with“appropriateness” and “modesty."

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 19,189,737 — Total deaths: 716,669 — Total recoveries — 11,610,192Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 4,917,050 — Total deaths: 160,702 — Total recoveries: 1,598,624 — Total tests: 59,652,675Map.
  3. Politics: White House recommends Trump issue executive orders on coronavirus aid.
  4. Education: Cuomo says all New York schools can reopen for in-person learning.
  5. Public health: Surgeon general urges flu shots to prevent "double whammy" with coronavirus.
  6. World: Africa records over 1 million coronavirus cases — Gates Foundation puts $150 million behind coronavirus vaccine production.

White House recommends Trump issue executive orders on coronavirus aid

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (L) and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speak to the media on Capitol Hill. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said President Trump should sign executive orders unilaterally addressing coronavirus stimulus spending after negotiations with congressional Democrats stalled again on Friday.

Why it matters: Friday was viewed as a self-imposed deadline to negotiate a new relief bill. But after an intense week of negotiations on Capitol Hill, White House and Democratic leadership failed to reach a deal on delivering much needed aid to Americans and businesses.